A few years back I wrote an article listing my five favorite Christmas films, and it in review is pretty bad writing. And though I still stand by some of the films, I included Home Alone and It’s A Wonderful Life in that list. And if I’m honest, as enjoyable as those films are, I will survive each year without viewing either of them. Because I don’t really enjoy most films with a heavy focus on the holidays, more the ones who just happen to take place during. They all would make ole’ Saint Nick blush and add you to the naughty list, which is the where you should be anyways. So here is my updated, true,
five six favorite X-Mas films. And maybe they’ll be aides in your survival of the holidays as well.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
If I could choose only one film to consider essential personal viewing during the holidays, I’d choose Shane Black’s genre-blending Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. What more could you want? Murder. Mystery. An inept Robert Downey Jr. Val Kilmer as a gay private eye. And femmes Michelle Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon round out an even more expansively talented cast in a modern, comical noir. Black’s name has more provenance since last year with his sophomore directing effort, a little indie flick called Iron Man 3. And he wrote another film on this list, but more on that later. But this film, clever and underratedly brilliant, is still one of my favorite films.
- Die Hard (1988)
I have only ever seen two Die Hard films. The original McClane classic and then the terrible A Good Day to Die Hard. And I’m fine with that. The original has a plethora of fun and mayhem to satisfy each repeat viewing. You get a primed and smart-ass Bruce Willis facing off against wicked Alan Rickman set in Nakatomi Towers. There is an unmistakable 80’s aesthetic without straying too far into the stereotype. Well… anyways, think of it like this: it is that crappy Christmas party you were invited to, but exciting. So get together, have a few laughs, and listen to Theo recite ‘Twas the night before Christmas”.
- Trading Places (1983)
Time to buffer that action with some comedy, and what better way to do that than with this classic Landis 80’s Pauper-adaptation. It has many great actors (sadly) at the height of their careers. Eddie Murphy is hilarious yet sincere as a poor black man given a job as a stock trader. Dan Aykroyd is equally entertaining as snooty stock trader turned poor white man. And Jamie Lee Curtis, who (no secret) I very much adore, is great as a smart prostitute with a heart of gold.
- Lethal Weapon (1987)
I love the Lethal Weapon films. They’re a guilty pleasure that I don’t really feel guilty about. It’s odd to me, that modern action films shy away from such a brilliant formula as these films. Yeah, you get to switch off and just watch, but not like now where people have to wipe away dribble from their lips at the end of a Michael Bay film. Did LW get a little ridiculous? Better believe it. I mean, a guy gets killed by a flying surfboard in the sequel. But there was some intelligence to these films, something to keep you lucid and connected. Before Gibson went nutty and Glover was actually too old for anything, they were one of the best buddy cop duos around. Well, they still are. And that Shane Black guy mentioned earlier? Yeah, he wrote it.
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
A December nary passes the Entrekin household before watching Clark Griswald’s decent into middle-class holiday hell. To this day, this comedic observation of those quirky people we call family is still relevant. Considering that this film comes from the Lampoon’s, a studio that pumps out about fifteen films a year and the last one that was of any relevance was… Christmas Vacation, that’s quite impressive. Most everyone has a Eddie in the family, albeit a good bit more racist. Most everyone has heavily medicated grandparents that just stare at the tele and have the age-old conversation of how “the good ole days are gone”. And most everyone has strung out parents just trying to hold everything barely together.
- Batman Returns (1992)
I mean… Batman. Catwoman. Penguin. Walken. Burton. Christmas. Can’t go wrong.
Yeah, the holidays can be hell sometimes. The haze of Christmas lights and seasonal scents and corporate greed sends some into a sedated existence. And then there are the Christmas social media defenders. You know, those people who get really worked up and hateful when underprivileged people point out inequality in America. They are the ones you mostly wonder why you added them to your Facebook in the first place. The ones who like to share that “IT’S MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS” photo everyday. Yeah, screw those grinches. Anyways, this time of year can get pretty heavy for a lot of people. So spike that egg nog just a bit more, kick back with these films, and drift away from Grandpa Ulysses’ snoring.